Chávez is dead: Viva Chávez!
‘Hugo Chávez could gain an iconic status among left-wing groups in Latin America that is comparable with that of Che Guevara,’ says Patricio Silva, Professor of Modern Latin American History. ‘Latin America as a whole is beginning a new chapter in its history.’
Will Venezuela become even more radical?
The burning question is which political direction Venezuela will take after the death of such a charismatic and influential leader. The approaching general elections, which according to the constitution must take place within four weeks, will probably be won by Vice President Maduro. Whether the leadership of Venezuela will take on an even more radical character and whether the links with Cuba will be strengthened is yet to be seen.
High oil price
Chávez had big plans with oil rich Venezuela and Latin America as a whole. To begin with he wanted to remain in power until at least 2030, when he would take personal lead of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of his great hero and inspiration, Simón Bolívar. He wanted to realise Bolívar’s dream – a united Latin America – on the basis of a radical left-wing political ideology. The high oil price enabled Chávez to fund numerous social schemes for the poorest groups in society with realitively easily earned money. This enabled him to create an excellent electoral basis among millions of Venezuelans.
Most corrupt country in Latin America
Whilst it is true that Chávez did much for the poor during his thirteen-year rule, agricultural and industrial production were neglected and inflation reached unknown levels during his regime. Crime and street violence are out of control, and according to Transparancy International Venezuela is now the most corrupt country in Latin America.
Chávez was also very active on the international scene. He took a stand against the United States, which gained him sympathy in many developing countries. He wanted to bring socialism to all of Latin America and became the unrivalled leader of the left in Latin America. He was the natural successor to Fidel Castro, who had long since lost his revolutionary sparkle. With the help of generous loans, donations and infectious rhetoric Chávez was able to form an alliance with other left-populist leaders in the region such as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Cristina Fernández of Argentina.
Less popular with the right
But Chávez also meddled directly in the internal affairs of countries such as Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Chile. He did this, for example, by directly funding left-wing groups in these countries or openly criticising government policy. This made him unpopular with moderate and right-wing governments in Latin America, who considered his ‘socialism of the 21st century’ to be a direct threat to the stability of their countries. Hugo Chávez will gain iconic status among the left-wing groups in Latin America, which could equal that of Che Guevara within a few years. With the death of Chávez not just Venezuela but the rest of Latin America is starting a new chapter in its history.